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Bruins clinch top seed in Eastern Conference

by Matt Kalman

BOSTON -- The Boston Bruins clinched the top seed in the Eastern Conference with a 5-2 win Saturday against the Philadelphia Flyers at TD Garden.

Johnny Boychuk and Milan Lucic scored 31 seconds apart late in the third period to help the Bruins avoid losing three in a row for the first time this season.

The Bruins (53-18-7) clinched the Atlantic Division last week and will go into the Stanley Cup Playoffs as the East's top seed for the first time since 2009. Boston is 16-1-2 in its past 19 games.

"Well, it's something, I guess, we wanted to do, but it wasn't really our main goal. Everyone knows what our main goal is," said Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask, who made 24 saves. "But it's good to finish off first and we still have a few games left to try to finish strong and then really feel good about going into the playoffs."

The Bruins played without forward Jarome Iginla for the second time in three games because of what they are calling a minor injury. Loui Eriksson filled in on right wing on a line with center David Krejci and left wing Lucic, and the trio combined for nine points. Lucic scored two goals and had three points, Eriksson had four assists, and Krejci had one goal and one assist.

"He's a very smart hockey player," Lucic said of Eriksson. "He's in the right position a lot of the times. He's got a good stick. And that's what makes him an easy player to play with. So two of the last three games where we were able to play with him, we were able to generate a lot of offensive chances, and today were able to get rewarded for those. And big game by him as well with four assists, so it's good to see him get rewarded and playing to the best of his abilities."

Ray Emery made 37 saves for the Flyers (39-29-9), whose winless streak reached four games (0-2-2). Philadelphia, third in the Metropolitan Division, was shut out in its prior two games and scored its two goals 1:45 apart late in the second period.

"We've got to come out and initiate the third period with the game on the line, a tied game here," Flyers coach Craig Berube said. "I thought that we competed hard up to then and were in good shape. We have to go out and initiate the third period. We can't sit back and can't let teams match you, and I thought that's what we did."

Boychuk scored the go-ahead goal with 6:06 remaining with a shot from the right point after Patrice Bergeron beat Vincent Lecavalier clean on a faceoff at the right dot. A half-minute later, Lucic threw the puck toward the net and it deflected past Philadelphia goaltender Ray Emery for a 4-2 Boston lead. Chris Kelly scored an empty-net goal.

The Bruins, 0-1-1 in their prior two games, haven't gone more than two games without a win since they closed last season 0-3-1 (April 23-28).

"We were not satisfied with losing two straight games," Eriksson said. "I thought at the beginning of the game we were kind of slow, but I thought we took over the game, and it was a big win for us to get back on a winning streak here."

Krejci scored the lone goal of the first period at 15:56 with assists from Eriksson and Lucic.

Philadelphia's Wayne Simmonds started the second-period scoring when he took advantage of a fortuitous bounce of a Mark Streit shot off the end wall during a power play. Simmonds backhanded the puck past Rask at 14:36. The goal snapped a Flyers scoreless streak of 165:01 dating to Sunday against the Bruins in Philadelphia.

Nineteen seconds later, Lucic put the Bruins back ahead with a one-timer from the high slot off a feed from Krejci.

Jay Rosehill's second goal of the season tied the score 2-2 at 16:21. Michael Raffl found Rosehill open on the goal line to the right of the net and he spun a low shot under Rask's right pad.

The Flyers won six of eight games prior to their winless streak.

"I don't think we've been as sharp," Flyers forward Scott Hartnell said. "Those games a few weeks ago seemed like every shift we were on, and the last couple it seems like we haven't paid the price, or haven't played within the system. ... You can really tell we were going four lines all together in the system, and the last couple games have been not that way."

The Flyers host the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday. The Bruins play at the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday.

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